Everything Has Changed

Stained glass at St. Nick’s OF St. Nick.


It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here.

There are many reasons. The most important one is that nearly every aspect of my life has changed, and I dare suspect for the better.

Also I’ve been working on a short new book that will be out soonish, so watch this space!

The first thing that changed is that my boyfriend of the past three years moved in, which is actually not something that I wanted, but made sense. It has been a blessing despite my many objections. If you’ve known me long enough, you know that things I object to frequently turn out to be blessings whether I like it or not.

The second thing that’s changed is where I attend mass. I now go to Saint Nicholas—not because there is anything particularly wrong with Saint Thomas, aside from its location.

As you know, Saint Thomas has been my spiritual home for more than four years now. I have made some of the best friends I’ve had in my life there, and I love Canon Davies. I was confirmed there & I know I am genuinely loved there. But I also have fibromyalgia, which is a fact I kept forgetting, hurling myself into projects, volunteering for every damn thing, and generally making myself physically miserable.

The discovery of another AngloCatholic parish not three minutes from my house was nothing short of a miracle. I had heard about St. Nick’s before, from not only my friend Robert, but also St. Thomas itself. Father Michael used to be assistant priest at St. Thomas, so the transition has been fairly seamless.

There are some distinct differences. St. Thomas has Dr. Jeffrey Parola as Master of Music, a 100 year old organ, and acoustics. The music is en pointe. St. Nicholas’ musical choices are both simpler and much more diverse, taking cues less from classics and more from what will resonate with the largest number of parishioners, who speak both Spanish and English.

I have found this to be as equally moving as, say, Durufle’s requiem mass. During Holy Week, St. Nicholas had a lovely singer who was mixing English, Spanish, Latin & opera (which I think was in Italian; I don’t know because I was sobbing). And there was a violinist as well as a pianist. If you want to immediately tap into someone’s heart, you play a violin!

The simplicity of some of the music at St. Nick’s makes for some rather magical spontaneous musical moments from the parishioners. During Maundy Thursday, we had a couple of chants that inspired improvised harmony from a few, including Father Michael. I can’t begin to describe how moving that was.

There are a lot of families attending St. Nick’s, too. Encino is more suburban than Hollywood, so it is delightfully common to hear little boys whisper in Spanish or English during mass, or see little girls burst into tears because they want to be crucifer this week, or hear kids running around the playground outside. 

My first visit was Ash Wednesday, and a precocious little boy who normally attends the Spanish mass said to me “You have a dark cross on your forehead!”

I replied, “Do I? Yours is very light. It’s probably because you’re young and haven’t sinned as much.” He smiled. His mother laughed.

Unsurprisingly I have already been recruited to do things. I started attending at the beginning of Lent, and by the very end, the Easter Vigil, I was already lectering. The beauty of this arrangement is that St. Nick’s is so close that attending & volunteering are no problem at all. I haven’t missed any work since attending St. Nick’s because I have not once gone into a full fibro flare.

Which brings me to change number three: my job. Quite by the grace of God, a writing gig dropped in my lap, and I now work from home following and writing up news stories. This is pretty much exactly the perfect thing for me at this time in my life. The salary, benefits, and people are amazing. Plus the clients I’ve served over the last seven years can now be my friends. It’s a win/win!

And when I’m in pain, I can still work because I don’t have to worry about driving or sitting in one position all day. And I learn something new every day. Ask me anything about the special election in Kansas’ 4th district. Go on! Ask me!

God is good, He is risen, & life doesn’t suck. I pray the same contentment for you all.

A Home & A Family in Christ

Brit & Rhiannon. They are magnificent.

Today I had to give a speech at both masses on behalf of stewardship. I was asked to post it online, so here is pretty much what I said, filling in my notes, plus pictures so you can see what I mean.

“Here’s why I believe God always wanted me to to come to St Thomas, despite being born in London & being generally the exact opposite of a “church person” for so long. 

Human hindsight is 20/20, so we have to understand God’s sight, His benevolent & sometimes cheeky omniscience, in retrospect. I will tell the tale of my long, strange trip to St Thomas as quickly as possible.

I was baptized in Colwyn Bay, Wales, at St Paul’s Church, in 1976. A little later on, a lovably mischievous Welshman went to seminary with St Paul’s current rector, Christine Owen, whom I’m to understand could tell us a number of entertaining stories about our beloved rector. A condition of my confirmation here in 2014 was to never ask after any of these tales….

I had no knowledge of this connection when I discovered St. Thomas online back in 2012. I had been to a Lenten service at Saint Monica’s with my Catholic friend & was left…wanting. He asked me what was wrong. I cited the praise band & general cheeriness. He, being a comedian, apologized that his parish was not morose enough for me. I corrected him, saying, “Not morose…solemn.” I was raised in Britain, & churches needed to be made of stone, & filled with slightly awkward people who didn’t want to appear too exuberant. 

After decades of spiritual experimentation, including a few adolescent years of angry atheism, & 17 years of Wicca, Taoism, & Buddhism, I was going to return to a smallish gothic stone structure that would not immediately burst into flame upon my crossing the threshold, by God!

My friend said, “Good luck with that.”

God laughed.

Then I turned to Google. None of the Catholic Churches seemed terribly serious to me, though to my mind they ought to have been, so I googled “English church”, figuring LA had everything. And St. Thomas came up! And there on the front page was a smiling British looking fellow who said that all are named & all are welcome. Maybe even me!

He was cleaning the tabernacle & looked like art.


I stalked St. Thomas online for nearly a year. I listened to all the music. I kept coming back to the music almost obsessively. I planned to drag my sister & mother to a Schola Mass, but there was a funeral that day, so we went to an English pub instead. 

And God laughed.

I used to be on Twitter a lot. I have several friends who are actors, & began following a friend of a friend. This gentleman posted a picture of a very familiar altar. I tweeted him immediately: “@robertpatrickt2 OMG, do you go to St Thomas?” He responded immediately “You bet I do. Hashtag Episcopalian, hashtag Anglocatholic.” I tweeted back excitedly “OMG! What’s it like? Is is sufficiently solemn?” He tweeted back “It’s high Anglican, baby! Get your butt down here!” I checked online, then texted my sister, Caroline, “OMG. St Thomas is having an Easter vigil tomorrow. We have to go! Robert Patrick said!” She texted back “What even is your life?” And also “Yes!”

That night I had nightmares that nobody would let me in the church…that grannies with submachine guns stopped me at the doors & shoved me into a white van & told me I wasn’t good enough to come back to Jesus. I came anyway.

It was magical. I was in love immediately. It had been so long since I had really been to church that I thought I had to introduce myself to everybody during the peace. I barely talked to anyone after, but couldn’t wait to come back. I arrived the next morning for Easter Sunday & cried my face off because I felt stupid for waiting so long. I felt at home, more at home than in my own home. I felt Christ’s presence from the altar & all around me & even in the woman next to me whom I haven’t seen since. I had the singular thought “This is my life now.” And it is!

God just roared & roared.

My sister & I enrolled in catechism & got confirmed. I came here whenever my health permitted. Sal & I came up with the Let’s Talk About series. I’ve gone into discernment to become a spiritual director. I have made the absolute most dearest, wonderful friends here whom I would actually die without & who push me to be happier, healthier, smarter, more loving & more peaceful. No, just kidding; all we do is MOAR STUFF. There are several of us here who would move in & just hold some kind of service 24/7 if we did not also have to eat & work & go to school.

People I love, some of whom legit would move into the church, one of whom symbolically did by going to seminary.


So that brings me to stewardship. So many people here do so many loving things for this community, sometimes just for the fun of it, but the end result is this holy, super weird family. 

Me & Art looking like a young Republican couple from the OC.


Volunteering as a stewardship representative & this year, God help you all, as a captain, means I get to speak to people I’ve never met, hear ideas I’ve had myself or never considered. This stewardship campaign alone has inspired inquiry into developing a regular evensong, & encouraging children & families to attend with education or children’s activities or all of the above! I keep saying I have no time and yet I want to make all of this happen!
 God just laughs & laughs.

Every year that I publish a book, I increase my stewardship pledge by 50%. I admit that this is partly to bribe God into increasing my sales, but it is also because when I hope I’ll get a little more, I want to give a little more. I will get even more involved here & one day be married here & baptize a child here (God willing), & when the UNR medical school is done poking at my remains for a semester, my ashes will come here. I want to be with everyone in these walls until the San Andreas fault sends this vivacious, sneering, desperate, gorgeous town northward to Alaska. I want to laugh with God at every timid witch who wonders if Jesus really wants her back, forever & ever, amen. I want to laugh when she finds she’s up to her eyeballs in food prep for receptions & trying to find a mic for the guest speaker & praying her bad knee will let her rise again after the Angelus. I want to be housed in this place until the world ends, so I’d best sell more books so I can give more with each passing year. I love St Thomas. You are St Thomas, so I love you. Thank you.”

Hermione & Himmione & the Marshmallows of Fire

This happens later.


As the absence of Draco completely changes the story, today the part of Girl Harry is played by Hermione, shifting Boy Hermione to Himmione, which is what I may start calling him in real life, too.

(See the beginning if you have no idea what’s going on.)

As Ancient Runes is clearly not enough for Himmione or Hermione, they have, as you’ll recall, taken up Ancient Greek, for fun, which is what people whose names end in -mione do.

Draco was sadly absent from this particular study session, texting Hermione while she was at brunch with her dorm mate that he was having a particularly long oil change. This might have been true, but then this is also a Malfoy, & it could be bollocks. Nevertheless, Hermione texted Himmione that Draco was most likely going to be absent, & they got on with it anyway.

Meeting up at the Three Broomsticks, the children got out their books & translated the riveting tale of the Minotaur. When it’s just the ‘Miones, there are a lot of excited interruptions & pauses over points of interpretation, smoother story telling, idiomatics & grammar. This happens when Draco is there, too, but much less. There are also several side conversations into superior Greek grammars & anecdotes about professors. This is all a kind way of saying that Hermione & Himmione are more colloquially described as nerds.

The ‘Miones also have zero qualms about correcting each other without the niceties people expect, which is refreshing & expedient, even when HERmione has cramps & wants to stab all men (& did jokingly threaten HIMmione, once. Maybe twice).

Even with all this exhuberant nitpicking, the ‘Miones are through the story of Theseus & the Minotaur in slightly over an hour, giving them around 3 hours before Ancient Runes begin. Both of them cannot be arsed to drive home & back, being so close to Hogwarts, so they decide to park at the school & walk to a new cafe. Hermione has brought a book to read (just in case) & Himmione already has a backpack filled with everything he is working on at any given time. Down the bloody great hill they go.

The cafe does not actually open until Wednesday. The ‘Miones attempt to figure out where to take themselves, when Himmione gets the grand idea to walk back up to the school & see if they can study/read there. Hermione notes that he is kindly walking a little slower this time, so even though she is wearing a bit of a heel, it’s much easier to go back up the hill than last week.

As Liquid Luck would have it, Aberforth is emerging from the great hall right as the ‘Miones approach (pro-SKO-roo-seen). He lets them in because the ‘Miones are inherently trustworthy, & they have sweet, innocent little angelic faces. Felix Felicitas was working overtime because there were also tables & chairs set up. Hermione always picks the most defensible seat (back to a corner, facing the door…part of her Harry personality) & Himmione sits across from her. They work in silence for nearly a couple hours, interrupted only once when Hermione hears noises near the kitchen & goes to check it out, totally prepared to Stupify someone.

She sees Neville! She opens the door & calls out “Neville! Hi!” He is surprised to see her poking her head out the locked great hall, & then Luna emerges from the Even Greater Hall. Everyone is surprised to see each other. Neville & Luna were picking their wedding hymns with Professor Flitwick, & Hermione explained that she & Himmione were just killing time between Ancient Greek & Ancient Runes.

Luna & Neville & Hermione are going to the same party later, but Luna & Neville are not going to Ancient Runes, so they all say “See ya later!” & Hermione gets back to her book.

Around 4, Hermione has to go pick up a great deal of cheese for Profressor Flitwick’s reception, & Himmione has to pick up an older wizard, so they part company & go to their errands. Cheese acquired, Hermione returns to the Hogwarts kitchen with Seamus & Flitwick & begins poorly slicing up cheese while Seamus creates a hostile working environment.

Soon Ancient Runes begins. Hermione is joined by another of her friends & Himmione arrives with the older wizard, who was splinched & needs to be driven. The class is wonderful as always, accompanied by male singers with beautiful voices, & mostly everyone goes into the great hall for cheese & wine.

Himmione, who is also going to the party later that evening, takes off to rest first. Hermione, who is not quite as practical, remains in the great hall but gets to talk a great deal about books & art & film with her friend Fleur (& her Bill). After they leave, Hermione finds herself chatting with Professor Trelawney, which is ok, & Ernie MacMillan, which was decidedly better. Realizing she was now late to the party, Hermione jumps up, washes a couple of glasses, & disapparates.

She arrives in a part of town she’s never been, & rings the doorbell. No one comes. So she walks around the side of the house, which sets off a protego charm & she is nearly blinded. This prompts her host to tell her to just walk in the front door, which she does, & is greeted by the birthday girl, whom she hands a small present.

She then goes round the back outside where young wizards from other schools are playing a more sanitary version of beer pong. She makes friends with a couple girls, one of whom knows her younger sister’s high school drama teacher, which shows how small the wizarding world is.

A tall blonde girl at the beer pong table hears Hermione say that she’s from Hogwarts, & she asks if she knows Himmione. She says she does, & that he should be along shortly. This pleases the blonde girl. Hermione also remarks that Himmione will probably take the exact same course of action to get into the party that she did, as they are both excessively polite. And that is exactly what happens.

Himmione actually knew more of the people at the party than Hermione did, so he was catching up with his friends while Hermione made new ones (men…de Hermione observes in Greek). Hermione was mostly discussing witchcraft & space exploration with her new acquaintances until she & the tall blonde got very excited when Dean said they could light a fire & roast marshmallows.

A group of girls formed around the fire, & the blonde girl demonstrated a fantastic marshmallow roasting technique that Hermione enjoyed greatly. Eventually Luna & Neville turned up, & they sat with Hermione & talked about sci-fi & music & church & how this is pretty much all they ever do at every party until way past midnight. Himmione had escaped way before that.

Hermione did not have one drop of alcohol the entire evening, proving once & for all that it is Draco that is the bad influence on her, & not the other way around.

IN YOUR FACE, HIMMIONE.*

*this is kind of how Greek goes, too. Well, internally.

Reset

  
Tonight I finally went to Compline at Saint John’s Cathedral. Brit has mentioned it on Facebook & in person a few times, & Chris reminded me, so I took the 101 to the 405 to the 10 to the 110 to get there. If you live in Los Angeles, you know how much I love Jesus now.

I was having quite a bit of post High Mass angst. As y’all could probably tell, this has been a harrowing year filled with loss & violence & needful change. High Mass sort of keeps me sane, but once it’s over & everyone’s left coffee hour, I have to trudge back home where there are no cats any more, where the failures of my adulthood hit me in the face like a badly caught football.

You all know me to be a fairly cheerful creature, but lately it’s just been too much. I’m over it. I need for things to be bright.

So why not pray in the darkness, holding a single lit taper, while a choir intones gorgeous harmonies as one voice, praising God?

My brain is completely reset. I feel at peace. I will probably sleep well tonight. I want to go forever and ever, amen. 

Talking about sci fi for an hour after with Chris & Mark most certainly did not hurt (even though I was a didactic psychology git for part of that, which is a flaw I am not sure how to purge). We probably laughed too loudly, but I don’t think anyone minded.

I was going to write another poem about this, but I don’t think it’s necessary. This is a set of emotional responses I can simply categorize: 

Today was amazing from start to finish. 

I am calm and happy. 

I love my church friends.

I love compline. It was much better than Cats (& my compline app). I will go again & again.